I’ll never forget the day I sat across from the smiley faced prison officer who told me

“You’ll never get a job with a fraud conviction. You’d have more chance if you’d murdered somebody”.

So much for moving on, being rehabilitated – from what this woman was telling me, I had a life on benefits to look forward to.

Luckily things didn’t quite turn out like that. I went to an open prison and, as soon as I was eligible for paid work, I secured a job with a well-known supermarket who employed individuals near to the end of their sentence. The job was essentially stacking shelves but I was so pleased to be working.

The best part of all was that when I was released, I kept the job. The money was ok and there was plenty of overtime available to bump up my salary. After a year I’d managed to rent myself a small flat and buy a really cheap car. It was wonderful to have some possessions of my own, all legally acquired.

Work was going well too. My line manager recognised that I was a hard worker, I kept myself to myself and was always willing to step in and cover extra hours when they were short staffed. He recommended that I go for promotion and after a bit of persuasion, that’s what I did. Four years on another promotion beckoned – department manager this time.

I passed all my assessments and moved to a small local store and as time went by I moved to bigger and better stores taking on more and more responsibility. I’d never had any passion to work in retail and although I was doing well, I’d often wondered what my life would have been like had I not received a criminal record. Prior to prison I’d worked in a management role for an IT company and I’d sometimes think about doing something different. However, that prison officers’ words always came back to me to haunt me. I was sure she was right. I’d secured one good job and after breaking the law and going to prison, I should be content with that job!

The supermarket that employed me often did work with local charities and I’d gotten to know the CEO of one of these quite well. I’d seen a lot of women in prison who were victims of domestic violence and I’d developed an interest in this field. I think I’d mentioned the possibility of doing voluntary work to the CEO at some time. One lunchtime as I read the local newspaper, I saw that the charity were advertising for an operations manager. The job description sounded just like my existing job albeit in a charity rather than a supermarket. I knew that I would be able to use a lot of my existing skills in this job but how could I? I had a job. I didn’t want to rock the boat. I’d have to disclose my convictions and the minute they found out about me, they’d reject my application. Not only that, but potentially I’d lose the respect of the CEO who I’d come to look upon as a friend.

For the next couple of days I tried to put the job out of my mind but at the most unexpected times, it would leap into my head. What should I do – just be happy with my lot that’s what.

To cut a long story short, I felt that I needed to speak to somebody about my thoughts and concerns. I rang my mum and asked her what she thought I should do. She told me that I needed to start forgiving myself for what I’d done in the past. That the only person stopping me doing something with my life was me.

Good old mum – always knows best.

I took her advice and filled in the application form. When I received the letter inviting me for an interview I was over the moon but then the doubt set in and there were several times when I almost rang and cancelled and even on the morning of the interview I almost didn’t go. I had a great interview. I’d done loads of research about the charity and I really gelled with the HR manager. Even when I disclosed my criminal record she didn’t seem too phased but I guessed that she was probably just a good actress.

When my phone rang the next morning offering me the job I couldn’t believe my ears. I’d done it. I’d got my dream job.

I’ve been there about 8 months now and I love it. I no longer think about the words of that prison officer but I often remember what my mum told me that the only person stopping me doing something with my life was me. She was absolutely right and I wouldn’t mind betting that there are people reading this now who are doing exactly the same as I was doing.

By Viv (name changed to protect identity)

 

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